A so-called carnival “Jig Show" innovates popular music and theatre, and gives birth to entertainment icons.
DEAR HARLEM IN HAVANA FRIENDS: Thank you all for your generous support for the HARLEM IN HAVANA documentary film project that is currently underway. Unfortunately, we may not reach our campaign goals this time around, however, we are still planning to move ahead with film production in 2012. Also, you can still get cool Harlem in Havana rewards when you donate to the project, visit http://www.harleminhavana.com/HarleminHavana/Donate.html to learn more.
Leon Claxton's HARLEM IN HAVANA, a documentary film by Leslie Cunningham
DETAILS: I am seeking funding assistance towards the production of Leon Claxton's HARLEM IN HAVANA, a feature documentary film by my production company, TRIBES Entertainment slated for completion in late 2013. Your funds will be used towards travel to key locations, including Atlanta and Saskatoon where we will conduct final research, on-camera interviews and shoot b-roll. In addition, a portion of your funds will be used towards the completion of original music for the film. Anyone can fund the film from $1 and up!
Thank you for your support!
Visit the HARLEM IN HAVANA WEBSITE to learn more.
Read about the film project in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix (Jan 2012): http://lesliecunninghampro.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/star-article-192012.jpg
Get the special Harlem in Havana Collector's Magazine!
Harlem in Havana Commemorative Postcard set!
LEON CLAXTON'S HARLEM IN HAVANA, a documentary film by Leslie Cunningham
Welcome to the greatest carnival stage show in North American history, HARLEM IN HAVANA, a showcase of black and latin dancers, musicians, burlesque performers, cabaret, and comedians- a so-called 20th century “Jig Show”- that innovated music and theatre and gave birth to the entertainment icons that would one day write American pop culture during some of the nation’s most socially turbulent years.
In a new 90 minute documentary film, Leon Claxton’s HARLEM IN HAVANA, filmmaker Leslie Cunningham pays tribute to her grandfather’s legacy, a top road show producer, pop culture pioneer, and one the countries first black millionaires. Offering a never-before-told story that charges into the birth and rise of this monumental show and it’s visionary leader, Leon Claxton’s HARLEM IN HAVANA shines an essential light on the carnival stage and Claxton’s groundbreaking “brown-skinned” revue to unearth another root in the history of North American popular culture and entertainment.
The film chronicles the enormous popularity of the traveling “brown-skinned” carnival sideshow which spanned four decades -1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. Legends like Chuck Berry, Redd Foxx, Rufus Thomas and Dinah Washington wowed audiences (as teenagers and young men and women) on the Harlem in Havana show. Some of the most beautiful brown-skinned burlesque dancers hypnotized audiences just a tent over from Sally Rand, Gypsy Rose Lee and Elvis Presley, who loved it so much, he encouraged his audiences to go there. Merceditas Valdes offered rituals to a Batá beat there, while Joni Mitchell honored the show in her song lyrics, "There’s a band that plays so snaky, you can’t help how you feel...”. For the hundreds of ‘colored’ dancers, musicians, and comedians who performed there for decades, it was the “best gig in the world” and for those who, still today, remember Harlem in Havana, it will forever be the greatest carnival stage show in North American history.
Harlem in Havana provided a platform for re-appropriating racist stereotypes normalized in the entertainment industry, as shows once performed in black-face put the outmoded tool aside and used the show’s prominence to set new industry standards. In the end, Harlem in Havana creator and producer, Leon Dunkins Claxton, Sr., achieved incredible success and went on to enjoy a good deal of wealth and social distinction as a pillar of the Tampa business association and philanthropist in his local community, in spite of the immeasurable odds against which he contended as a self-made, black entrepreneur.
Labeled a “jig show” by competitors, Harlem in Havana was often met by angry crowds throwing rocks and bottles as coach car 66 pulled into deep southern towns. Yet, like the high speed trains it traveled on for more than thirty years, the greatest carnival stage revue in North American history was unstoppable.
Touring company and training ground for the future heavyweights of Soul/R&B that would inspire Rock and Roll, a political trigger that rose above the segregated stage to achieve mainstream and international recognition and lead in the entertainment industry, and overall theatrical tour de force, heed the cry of Leon Claxton himself and “Step right up folks, it’s HARLEM IN HAVANA time”!
Please visit http://www.harleminhavana.com to learn more.
The film will be distributed to festivals in North America (Sundance; Chicago International; Miami International; Edmonton International) with a special focus on documentary festivals (Fullframe, Silver Docs, International Documentary) and African American and latino festivals (UrbanWorld; American Black; New York International Latino). Receptions will be planned at festivals in the U.S. featuring live entertainment and an open conversation with the filmmakers.
I will be pursuing broadcast of the film on PBS, specifically the national AfroPop;Independent Lens and POV series. I will also be pursuing self-distribution of the film on DVD for purchase, rental and video-on-demand. I will pursue hiring a reputable distribution service company.
This film is necessary for the education market, being applicable to studies inAmerican Historical Anthropology, African American History, Latin American History, African American and Afro-Cuban Music History. As well, a wide network of African American and Latin cultural and historical organizations would be interested in screening and purchasing the film. The ﬁlm’s outreach efforts will also consist of partnerships with state chapters of the National Showmen’s Associations; local chapters of the National Association of the Advancement for Colored People; National Council of La Raza, public television stations, local newspapers and public library systems.
The film’s campaign is will be supported by a website, a four-color poster, commemorative postcards, t-shirts, and national print and radio advertising.
All film funds are currently being managed by TRIBES Entertainment. We will be applying to the Southern Documentary Fund, a reputable ﬁscal sponsor in Durham, North Carolina, to ensure the ﬁlm project maintains legal and ﬁduciary responsibility. We will learn the results of fiscal sponsorship in July 2012.
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